One Year After the Adoption of the Optional Protocol: Demand Justice NOW! Ratify to Protect all Human Rights

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol calls on the international community to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as possible.

"With the adoption of the Optional Protocol, the United Nations has now been able to come full circle on the normative architecture envisaged by the Universal Declaration. I call on all States to promptly sign and ratify this crucial new human rights instrument."

Navanethem Pillay
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

December 10th is a renowned date in human rights’ history, marking the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, December 10th will also be commemorated as the first anniversary of the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The adoption of the Optional Protocol finally fulfills the Universal Declaration’s aspirations for universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, after 60 years of historical imbalance in their recognition and protection. The Optional Protocol has created the possibility for millions of people whose social and economic rights have been violated to seek redress at the international level by filing complaints before the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations’ body of experts responsible for supervising the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Covenant). In addition, it will serve as an incentive to increase States’ domestic compliance with ESCR obligations and expand the national adjudication of cases that involve violation of ESC rights.

The Protocol was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 10, 2008, and was opened for signature in September 24, 2009. It requires 10 ratifications, to enter into force. We commend the 30 countries that have so far signed the Optional Protocol: Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Chile, Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Italy, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Montenegro, Netherlands, Paraguay, Portugal, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Timor-Leste, Togo, Ukraine and Uruguay. We now urge these countries to move expeditiously towards ratification. We call upon all other countries to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as possible and exhort those who have not yet ratified the Covenant to do so expeditiously.

We also make a call to the international community, including civil society and States, to ensure this important mechanism achieves widespread global support; is promptly signed and ratified by all States; and implemented in a manner that ensures full protection to victims of violations of economic, social and cultural rights.

In order for the Optional Protocol to be meaningful to those facing these violations, it is also critical that it becomes accessible and known to civil society. With these goals in mind the International NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol has launched the Campaign for the Ratification and Implementation of the Optional Protocol: "JUSTICE NOW! RATIFY TO PROTECT ALL HUMAN RIGHTS". We invite civil society and other committed partners to join and support this Campaign.

The right to food, water, housing, health, education, and work are central to human dignity: they are human rights that must be secured. Often those most vulnerable to violations of these rights are individuals and communities that face other forms of discrimination such as women, indigenous peoples, migrants, ethnic minorities and others. The Optional Protocol is an essential tool towards the protection and fulfillment of the economic, social and cultural rights of all people and as such a cornerstone on the "foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world".

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* The NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol is formed by more than 300 organizations and individuals from more than 60 countries working for social justice worldwide.

*Members of the Steering Committee of the Coalition:

Amnesty International; Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), Switzerland; Community Law Centre, South Africa; FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN), Germany; Inter-American Platform of Human Rights, Democracy and Development (PIDHDD), Paraguay; International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Switzerland; International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), France; International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net),United States; International Women’s Rights Action Watch – Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific), Malaysia; Social Rights Advocacy Center (SRAC), Canada

*Join the Campaign for Ratification to support the protection of economic, social and cultural rights worldwide! http://www.escr-net.org/actions/actions_show.htm?doc_id=940624

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